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Pharmacy strengthening health systems. Spotlight on our pharmacists on World Pharmacists Day

Following a momentous year of change, challenge and opportunity, World Pharmacists Day is a chance to reflect on the pharmacy profession, what has been achieved and what is to come.

‘Pharmacy strengthening health systems’ is the theme of World Pharmacists Day 2023 on Monday 25 September. The PHN is proud to support all pharmacists across the Hunter New England and Central Coast Region, by highlighting some of our pharmacy colleagues as they innovate, transform pharmacy and support their communities via a range of clinical services.

Lia Mahony is a Clinical Pharmacist with other qualifications as a ‘Deadly Pharmacist’ providing culturally appropriate pharmaceutical care and with Drug and Alcohol and Clinical Governance Training.

Lia says that despite common misconceptions, pharmacists offer many services, and dispensing is just a fraction of their clinical responsibilities. “We offer vaccinations, Home Medicines Reviews, Wound dressings, and an Opioid Substitution program. These are just a few of the wonderful services that support our community members to maintain their independence at home. I also sit on several boards for health organisations in the region. This clinical and governance oversight ensures community-based organisations deliver the best healthcare to our communities.”

Lia has worked all over NSW including in many rural and remote communities and thanks her career in pharmacy for providing her the opportunity to see different parts of Australia, improving her clinical skills and increasing her professional network.

Lia is proud that her locally owned business in Tamworth is providing employment and opportunities for people in regional communities. “I am proud that nine of my employees have gone on to study pharmacy, many of whom still work in the region. Training and keeping skills regionally is so important.”

“Pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare worker. Open 7 days a week, easy to walk in and receive help and support. I love talking to people, knowing family groups and being able to provide complete care to my community. It is a great job for someone who likes solving problems, interacts well with others and has genuine empathy for people in need. Working in community pharmacy can be difficult, it can be 7 days a week, but I love my job.”

Anna Barwick is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Health at the University of New England, Armidale NSW and says while she has many career highlights being a research investigator is one of them. “Being a research investigator on the NSW Pharmacy trial, expanding the capabilities of the pharmacists and most importantly, enabling safe and timely care to people in the community has been a career highlight. This role has allowed me to work in a multidisciplinary team that is focused on improving rural and regional health outcomes, which I am passionate about.

“I have also been honoured to teach and support many amazing pharmacists, doctors, and nurses in my role as an academic at the University of New England. It is a great thrill to see my current and former students developing innovative care models and having positive impacts on their patients.

Anna encourages others to consider a career in pharmacy. In NSW, pharmacists can immunise, offer point-of-care testing, wound care, diabetes consultations, sleep apnoea testing and device fitting, general health assessments, provide a consultation about UTI symptoms and antibiotic treatment, and soon can extend oral contraceptive prescriptions.

“The scope of practice for pharmacists is expanding rapidly, as we are recognised for the valuable skill set we have as medication experts. There are many new areas that pharmacists are working in, including aged care, GP surgeries, medical writing, and as independent consultants. It is a great career, where you combine person-centred care and scientific evidence directly to people in your local community. You get to help multi-generational family members and assist them through some of their most challenging health battles. Pharmacy has provided me with so many diverse opportunities to grow as a professional and a person. I love it!”

Anna is currently working on her PhD in tele-pharmacy at the University of Queensland, holds a Master of Clinical Pharmacy, is a practising consultant pharmacist, researcher, diabetes educator, and immuniser. Anna founded PharmOnline, an online advisory video telehealth service, to connect people with experienced pharmacists to discuss their medication.

Anna was announced as the 2022 NSW Premier's Woman of the Year and the 2022 NSW Mineral's Council Regional Woman of the Year for her health and wellbeing innovation. Anna has been recognised as the PSA 2021 NSW Pharmacist of the Year and 2021 UTS Innovative Pharmacist of the Year. Anna is also a 2023-24 Superstar of STEM.

The PHN would like to acknowledge and thank all Pharmacists across our region, with a special thanks to Lia and Anna for sharing their stories.

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